Tuesday, November 17, 2009

OSU v Iowa-Offensive Breakdown and Play-by-Play: Updated

I think the Iowa game offensively is an example where the behavioral economics principle of recency applies:  the last few series negatively color peoples' judgments about the offenses' performance.  I will dissect it here.

1.  Ohio State came out throwing the ball.  On the first two possession OSU:
  • Called pass plays on 7 of 8 plays.  
  • Threw on the first three first downs.
  • Those 7 plays only gained  2.571 yds per pass attempt
  • And the the two biggest gainers that added buffeted that 2.571 yards were Pryor scrambles
  • OSU punted twice.
2.  Clearly, Ohio State expected Iowa to defend them differently then they did.  But instead Iowa stuck to their base "2-high" cover 2 philosophy.   That meant that no matter how many receivers OSU put on the field, Iowa would extend linebackers out to those receivers and keep their 2 deep safeties.  Here are two examples:

More after the jump

This meant that no matter what Ohio State did, they had a numbers advantage "in the box."  Moreover, Iowa played their 2 deep zone as effectively as they had all year and OSU's receiver were rarely, if ever, open downfield.  For example, one thing a cover 2 corner does is jam and reroute wide receivers at the line of scrimmage to prevent them from attacking weak spots in a cover 2.  And, as DontHateOState discussed on the Scout "Ask the Insiders" site, Iowa effectively did that to our Wide Receivers.  For example (and not to single him out, as he was not the only one) watch Devier Posey get rerouted out of bounds at the top of the screen:

UPDATED:  As a side note, I wanted to say a word about Ohio State's passing concepts.  Many have often complained about the lack of sophistication to Ohio State's passing game.  I will again say that I did not see that this game.  As DontHateOState points out, the pass to Dane in the 5-wide above is a 'scat' concept.

(H/T:  Brophy).  It is similar to the spacing concept I have discussed here before, but puts more responsibility on the WR and QB to read the zone correctly.  As DontHate states, this shows the Coaching staff's confidence in Pryor to run this play.   Ohio State also did a nice job designing concepts to hi-lo the cover 2 zone.  Here, they have Saine release into the flat, holding the no. 2 zone defender to allow Posey to get behind him:

Finally, Ohio State ran quite a few 'hi-lo' routes, likely designed to hold the dropping linebackers and sneak the shallow crossing receiver underneath.

(H/T:  SmartFootball).   This is a bit of an aside, but it does demonstrate that Ohio State, while perhaps conservative, does attack defenses with the passing game in sophisticated ways when it does pass. 

2.  Going back to the Iowa 2 deep and the resulting numbers, this defense gave Ohio State a numbers' advantage in "the box" to run the ball.  And while it is overly simplistic, as a general point, if a team is going to give you a numbers advantage in the box you should run .  And Ohio State successfully did so.  Starting with the third possession, Ohio State's had drives for 73 and 74, 79, 49, and 30 yards.  The fact they did so primarily running is neither good nor bad--it was taking what the defense was giving them and being successful doing so.

Within this run-first philosophy Ohio State did some really nice things to take advantage of what Iowa likes to do on defense.  Iowa's primary run stopping formation is a 4-3 under, as it is generally stronger on the strongside.  Several times Ohio State therefore set up their formation like they would run strongside, and then ran inside zone to the weakside with Z. Boren coming on the strongside Mike.

But because Iowa likes to keep their two-deep safeties, they will go to a 4-3 over against certain sets so they can widen out their weakside linebacker and still keep two deep safeties.  Ohio State used this to their advantage with two formations that guaranteed Iowa would move to this set.  The first was simply running a 'twins' formation.

The second was taking out the TE and using 3 wide receivers with an I formation backfield.

Ohio State also ran far more ISO and lead zone and far less Dave then I have seen them do, taking advantage of ISOing up on linebackers with a spread out defense.  In sum, within a 'conservative' gameplan, Ohio State did a lot of nice things to open up running lanes and be successful.

3. As for the last three drives I have separate thoughts on each of them:
  • The Missed FG Drive:  I believe Ohio State got too complacent here.  What may be forgotten is that Ohio State's line opened huge holes on this drive--Ohio State ran the ball for 2 first downs.  In fact, but for missed cuts by Herron, Ohio State might have had another long touchdown run.  But, because of this, I think Ohio State could have sprung a playaction pass on 1st or 2d down for a potential big play before kicking the field goal.  This is the drive that I believe is souring some people's opinions of the playcalling and I do not disagree this was a potentially wasted opportunity.
  • The Two Minute Drive:  Ohio State largely saved Pryor's running ability for this situation.  They called a Dave bootleg run that gained yards.  They then ran the play that had saved up-Pryor keeping off of the fake of the split back outside zone play.  But Iowa did not bite on this and held Pryor in check.  From there, Ohio State tried to pass, but did not or could not get the ball downfield.  It was pretty clear here that Tressel did not want an interception and did not believe OSU could get open downfield against Iowa's 2-deep.  This decision is not irrational, considering Ohio State was the home team with better talent and thus overtime was not the worst situation, particularly because the one favorable matchup for Iowa was their pass defense versus OSU's pass offense.
  • Overtime:  Here, I think Tressel's playcalling is pretty rational.  All they need is a medium range field goal, why risk a turnover, which is the only way you don't get the opportunity for the win?  This is especially true in light of the fact that Ohio State's offense would get the ball back right away if they miss.  So in overtime 2 they would have had to open things up to go for the touchdown, anyway, so its smart to play for the initial field goal and then go from there.
3.  Despite this, I think the criticism of the offense at the exclusion of the other units against Iowa is the wrong focus.  Ohio State scored two touchdowns in the second half to go up 24-10, gained 322 yards total offense and controlled the ball for nearly 34 minutes.   But for the special teams and defense each giving up a touchdown in the Fourth Quarter this is not a close game.  The defense generally did not have their best game until it counted--if the defense turns in their typical performance, the game is a blowout.  I would argue that the offense's performance--whatever style they played--was the primary reason Ohio State won this game.

4.  The Offensive Line continues to perform at a very high level.  The amount of movement they are getting at the LOS of scrimmage is something we have not seen from an OSU line in the recent past.  Watch Ohio State move the pile in the 'twins clip.'  Boren, Browning, and Shugarts in particular are really starting to open up some holes--I think this was Shugarts best game.

Zach Boren also deserves praise.  I do not know if I have ever seen someone improve so much in one season.  Re-watch the clips again.  In those and other plays he completely drives the Inside Linebackers back.  Those linebackers likely left that game with their heads ringing.  I think one of the underrated aspects of Ohio State going back to the I formation is his improvement-he is certainly one of the best 11 players on offense.
5.  And, in my opinion, Ohio State is running the ball this well without a lot of help from their tailback a majority of the carries.  I think Boom Herron is a very good leader, does a lot of the 'little things right' and I do not mean to repeatedly criticize him.  But I do think that he is not a protypical tailback, misses holes, and leaves opportunities the line is providing on the field.  I think Ohio State probably left another 75-100 yards on the field versus Iowa. 

6.  Regardless, it is very impressive that Ohio State has been able to rush for 200+ yards against two good defenses.  As Tressel has discussed in the past, generally when you run for over 200 yards your team wins.  As others have said, if Ohio State can run the ball this well with the defense they have, they will be a tough out for any Pac-10 Bowl Team.

The Play-by-Play Below:

1st-10:  TE motion to Ace right.  Iowa -4-3 under, 2 high.  Fake zone
left, boot right.  Throws to Ballard in the flat, 4 yd gain.  Sam LBer
was in face immediately.  Nice read by Pryor.  Good tackle by Iowa
2d-6:  Shotgun trips left.  Lead draw right.    Good initial hole, but
Clayborn stalemates Cordle and is then able to come off of him to make
the play.  Saine needed to hit the hole harder.
3d-3:  Shotgun 4 wide.  Iowa is in a 4-1, LBers over the slot
receivers, 2 high (why not run here, only 5 in the box).  Dropback.
Cover 2.  In/Curl routes.  Swing pass to Saine-a little quick on this.
 Saine should have just kept running for the corner, instead tried to
cut back and tackled.
SECOND POSSESSION-0-0.  Starting position.  Own 12
1st-10:  3 wide I twins left.  Iowa.  4-3 over.  2 high.  Dave rollout
pass left.  Plenty of time, Posey and Sanzenbacher are blanketed.
Nice throw by Pryor late, Dane should have caught it.
2d-10:   I twins left.  Iowa 4-3 under 2 deep.  Lead zone right.  Big
initial hole.  M. Hall let the 5 technique slide across his face,
Saine sort of quit running in the hole.  4 yard gain.
3d-6:  Gun trips left 4 wide.  Iowa  4-2 nickel 2 high:  Dropback.
Looks like an all curl route. Ballard chips on Clayborn initially then
releases.  Both Des beat their man, really nice run by Pryor straight
up the field for a 1st down.
1st-10:  I twins right.  Iowa 4-3 over 2 high.  Quick screen to Posey.
 Posey dances back and forth instead of just immediately running
outside.  Would have gotten 5 yds instead of 2.
2d-8:  Gun ace left, halfback weak.  Iowa 4-3 under.  Dropback.  5 man
route.  Good protection, plenty of time.  ‘Drive’ crossing pattern.
Posey ran an in while Ballard crossed deep,  Sanz and Small ran pivot
routes. Posey was open, Pryor read it correctly but just led him too
3d-8:  Gun Ace right.  Iowa nickel 2 high.  Basically the same pattern
with the routes flipped.   Claybourn beats Cordle-Saine is supposed to
chip but completely whiffed.  Pryor has a nice scramble and makes the
right decision to eat the ball.  5 yd gain.

THIRD POSSESSION:  Iowa 3-0.   Own 15
1st-10:  3 wide I twins right.  Iowa nickel 2 high.  Iso left.  Great
lead block by Z. Boren, completely manhandles the LBer.  Great block
by Cordle on the outside.   Terrible run by Herron.  Missed the hole,
then tried to cut back, then tripped over himself.  Turned a 12 yd run
into a 4 yd run.
2d-6:  I weak twins right.  Iowa 4-3 under 2 deep.  Toss outside zone
right.  The NG drives Brewster back into the play.  Boom should have
gone outside, instead runs right up into traffic, 2 yd gain.
3d-4:  Gun empty 5 wide, trips right.  Iowa-4 guys in the box, head up
on each receiver, 2 high.  Dropback.  Nice job by Shugarts at RT
stalemating his guy.  Nice option route by Sanz, good throw by Pryor
for 5.
1st-10:  I strong right.  Iowa 4-3 under 2 high.  Zone left, with
Boren blocking on the Mike. Nice job this game of running to the
weakside away from the under.  Good blocking at the POA.  Browning
drove his guy back, creating a nice hole, and Z. Boren blew up the
Mike LBer.  Nice cut this time by Boom who finds the crease for 5.
2d-5:  I twins right.  Iowa 4-3 under 2 deep.  OSU also doing a nice
job of using twins to dictate that Iowa go to 4-3 under.   Lead ISO
left.  No initial hole but then Boom Herron and Boren, Browning, and
Shugarts drive Iowa another 10 yards.  Great run.
1st-10:  3 wide I twins right.  Iowa 4-2 nickel.  2 high.  Lead Iso
left.  Z. Boren just destroys the Will LBer again.  Nice drive block
by J. Boren.  If Cordle could hold his block a fraction longer, then
Herron goes another 6 yards.  Some definite drive blocking going on.
2d-5:  Gun 4 wide-trips right.  Iowa 4-1 2 high.  (Use picture to
show).  Dave left.    The NG slipped off Boren, but nice cut outside
by Boom for 7.
1st-10:  Unbalanced twins right.  Iowa-4-3 over to the unbalanced.
Dave right.  Dave right.  Good initial hole, But the DT came off
Browning and Brewster’s combo when they both went to the 2d level-bad
communication.  2 yd gain.
2d-9:  Gun trips right.  Iowa 4-3 under double a gap.  2 high.  Zone
left fake bubble screen. The backside 5 technique came unblocked down
the line.  1 yd gain
3d-8:  Gun ace h-back left.  Iowa 4-3 over 2 deep.  Dropback.  Good
initial protection.  Clayburn throws Ballard but too late.  Hi-lo
Out/Flat route with a seam route.  The LBer comes up on the flat
route, opening the out behind it.  Nice throw by Pryor, 16 yd gain.
1st-10:  Ace wing.   right:  Iowa  4-3 under.  Dave right.  Big
initial hole.  Nice down block by Ballard.  Good kick out by Boren.
J. Boren missed the hole too far inside, leaving the SAM backer
unblocked.  Still a 4 yd gain.
2d-6:  false start
2d-11:  Ace wing right.  Iowa 4-3 under 2 high.  Fake zone left, half
boot right.  Tons of time.  Nice job by Cordle on the back side.  No
one open.  Pryor checks down to Saine in the flat.  Nice run by Saine,
8 yd gain.
3d-3:  Gun 10 personnel trips right.  Iowa 4-1 2 high.  Dropback, good
protection.  “Shallow-In route” by OSU.  Flat, drag, in.  Decent read
by Pryor to Saine.  First down.
1st-10:  “Wildcat”-strong Wingback right.  Iowa 4-3 under 2 high.
Dave rigiht.  Blocked well at the POA but backside
penetration-Browning whiffed.  Herron got past the guy, though, for a
3 yd gain.
2d-7:  Istrong right.  Iowa 4-3 under 2 high.  Zone right.  Huge
cutback hole on the backside behind Shugarts and Z. Boren, but Herron
misses the hole and tries to go outside.  1 yd gain.
3d-6:  Gun trey left.  Iowa-4-3 nickel-walk down and come with a
corner blitz.  Mesh route against man coverage.  Line picked it up but
no one open.  Pryor throws it to the corner for Posey, incomplete.  At
least he threw it where it was going to be out of bounds or a catch.

1st-10:  Ace wing right.  Iowa 4-3 under 2 high.  Dave right .  Bad
blockback by Brewster-got his head too far across, and the 2i
technique came off him and made the tackle.  3 yd gain.
2d-7:  I weak twins left.  Iowa 4-3 under with a double A-gap.  Nice
job by Brewster and Boren neutralizing it.   Zone right.  Boren
blocking up on the backside LBer.  Big cutback hole for Herron, 6 yd
3d-1:  Tight I left.  Iowa 4-3 under 1 high.  Iso right.  Good job by
Brewster and J. Boren neutralizing their guys, nice cut by Boom for
the 1st down.
1st-10:  Gun split backs 3 wide.  Iowa 4-3 under.  Outside zone right.
 Not much of a hole, nice job by Herron sticking his pads down and
driving for 4 yds.
2d-6:  I-3 wide twins left.  Iowa nickel double A gap.  2 high.  Iso
right.  Big cutback hole.  Nice blocks at the POA.  Great block by Z.
Boren and then really nice job by the 3 inside guys locking their men
up.  Good vision by Saine.  10 yd gain.
1st-10:  3 wide.  I twins right.  Iowa nickel double A gap.  Iso
right.  Iowa twisted inside and Boren and Brewster missed it.  Strung
out the play for 2 yds.  Horsecollar  15 yd penalty
1st-10:  Shotgun-3 wide twins right split backs.  Iowa 4-3 over 2
high.  Dropback.  All curl route.  Good pocket-Brewster got beat a bit
but drove him out of the play. Posey gets absolutely rerouted and
driven out of bounds.  Nice throw for a first down.  12 yd gain.
1st-10:  Gun-3 wide twins left split backs.  Iowa 4-2 nickel 2 high.
Then they sneak up and bring 2 to the boundary (away from Saine).
Great cut by Saine seeing the blitz and cutting right up field past
the NG.  GREAT downfield block by Dane, enabling the TD.  22 yd TD
1st-10:  I twins left.  Iowa-4-3 over 2 high.  Fake zone left, half
boot right.  Nice blocking, until Brewster ole’s the the NG.  Pryor
stiffarms the DE but gets 3.
2d-12:  I twins left.  ISO left.
3d-12:  Ace H-Back left.  Draw.  No hole.

1st-10:  3 wide I twins right.  Iowa 4-3 over 2 high.  Lead zone left.
 Good push by the Boren brothers, Cordle couldn’t sustain his block,
Clayburn makes the tackle.  3 yd gain.
2d-7:  Wildcat strong Wingback right.  Iowa 4-3 under 2 high.  Dave
right.  Nice downblock by Boren and Stoneburner.  Hard run by Saine
for 6 yds.
3d-1:  I tight right.  Iso left.   Good blocking at the POA.  Boren
gets a good down block.  Saine has the first down and then fumbles
short of the line.
1st-10:  Ace trips right.  Iowa-nickel 2 high.  Lead draw right.
Small seam that Boom finds but then trips up for 4.  Ballard and
Browning do a nice job of sealing the traffic inside of them.
2d-6:    I 3 wide twins right.  Iowa 4-3 over.  ISO right.  Great
downblock by Browning, but the Mike loops around untouched and as able
to tackle Boom for 3.
3d-3:  Gun 4 wide trips left.  Iowa 4-1 two high.  Dropback.  ‘Drive
crossing route.”  Pryor panicked and started running around backwords,
rather than staying in the pocket.  Sacked for a loss of 12.  The
pocket was there but Pryor ran right into Clayburn.
1st-10:  Ace trey right.  Iowa -4-3 under double A gap.  2 high.  Fake
zone left, waggle right. Flood right.   Good time, hits Dane on a
hitch route.  8 yd gain.
2d-3:  Wildcat Strong wingback right.  Dave right.  Nothing there, but
Boom lowers his head and gets 4.
1st-10:  Ace WB right.  Iowa 4-3 under 2 hight.  Dave right.  Shugarts
and Z. Boren get stalemated, enough of a crease for Herron to get 4.
2d-6:   Shotgun Ace left.  Dropback.  Good protection.  Hits Ballard
on the switch clearing out underneath drag.  17 yd gain.
1st-10:  Tight I left.  Fake Zone right.  Corner-out route.  Set up
for Stoneburner, but Clayburn gets free in Pryor’s face.  Cordle gets
locked up with Clayburn under his shoulder pads, not the position you
want to be in as a olineman.  Pryor scrambles for 2 yds.
2d-8:  Shotgun trips right Halfback stron.  Iowa 4-1 2 deep.  Trap
left.  Good kickout by Browning.  Nice initial hole for 5.
3d-3:  10 personnel-shotgun trips right.  Iowa 4-1 2 high.  Drag,
pivot route.  Clayburn beat Cordle on a speed rush.  Pryor scrambles
and hits Carter sitting outside off the pivot route.   Nice job by
Pryor.  10 yd gain.
1st-10:  Shotgun 3 wide twins left split backs.  Iowa nickel 2 high.
Outside zone right.  Small hole but Boom just danced in the backfield
and lost 5.  Missed a small hole where he could have got 3.  It was at
this point where if Pryor kept he would have had a big gain.
2d-15:  Shotgun ace H-back left.  Dropback.  Nice job by Cordle
punching Clayburn.  Ballard chips Clayburn then releases into the
flat.  Pryor checks down to him-3 yd gain.
3d-10:  Shotgun Ace right.  Iowa nickel 2 high.  QB draw.  Great run
by Pryor.  Gets right upfield and makes a cut and makes a guy miss.
Great block by Ballard faking the crossing route.  Just a great run.
19 yd gain.
1st-10:  Wildcat strong wing right.  Iowa -4-3 under 1 high.  Dave
right.  Nice cut by Boom to bounce outside and then outrun Iowa’s
safeties.  Good job by Z. Boren neutralizing at the POA.  TD.

1st-10:  I twins right:  Iowa 4-3 under.  1 high.  Iso right.  Picture
perfect blocking at the POA.  Downblock by J. Boren and ISO by Z.
Boren.  Nice job by Corle and Ballard neutralizing their guys.  Great
block by Cordle driving Clayburn back and then great cut and burst by
Saine.   TD

1st-10:  I twins left.  Iowa 4-3 over 2 high.  Lead Iso right.  Big
initial hole.  Great control at POA by Browning.  Boom didn’t follow
his blocker, though, and then cut too late.  No gain.
2d-10:  Ace bunch right.  Iowa 4-3 under.  Dave right.  HUGE hole.
Ballard and Shugarts created a huge lane.  Great blocking by Shugarts.
 Boom turned what should have been a 15 yd gain into an 8 yd gain.
Missed the cut and then went down way too easy.  It could have been a
possible td.
3d-2:  Ace bunch right.  Dave right.  Huge hole.  Boren pulls through
and roadgrades his guy.  Boom is going down before he even gets hit.
He puts his head down so much he has very little balance.  Another
possible TD that he blows.  8 yd gain.
1st-10:  Ace tight bunch right.  Iowa in 4-3 under.  1 high.  Brewster
whiffed blocking back on the 3 technique.  Came down the line and made
the play.  No gain.
2d-11:   gun 3 wide ace right.  Dave right.  Big hole outside, should
have been bounced.  Browning passed up a guy to go to the second
level, made the play.  2 yd gain.
3d-8:  Ace bunch right.  Dave right.  Huge hole to the right.  Cordle
gets beat but just horrible running by Boom Herron.  Didn’t go to the
hole and stopped his feet.  Just really, really bad.
4th-Missed FG

1st-10:  I twins right.  Iowa 4-3 over, 2 high.   Fake Dave rollout
called run right.   Boren gets a little too deep so Pryor has to wait
on him.    Still a good 9 yd gain.
2d-1:  Tight I left.  Iowa -4-3 under to strong side.  ISO right.
Small hole, nice cut by Boom for the first.
1st-10:  3 wide gun split backs.  4-3 over.    Fake outside zone, read
left.  Iowa for the first time all game played this fake.  Nice play
by Pryor just to get around both defenders for 2 yds.
2d-8:  4 wide gun trips.  Iowa 4-1 two deep.  Dropback pivot route to
Small.  Great tackle by the Iowa corner.  If he doesn’t make the
tackle Small is going down the sideline for at least another 10 yards.
3d-5:  Gun 3 wide, split backs.  Iowa 4-3 over.  Iowa 2 deep.  Iowa
plays a perfect 2 deep, everyone is completely covered.  Pryor swings
the ball to Herron, tackled in the open field.

1st-10:  Unbalanced I right.  Lead zone right.  The 5 technique goes
inside on Shugarts and he misses.  2 yd loss.
2d-12:  Tight I left.  Iowa Goaline 5-3.  Lead zone right.  Boom
misses the hole—there is a huge hole around right end, but at least
cuts back to the middle of the field.  2 yd gain.
3d-10:  Tight I left.  Lead ISO left.  Boren creates a big hole, but
then Cordle leaves Clayburn, and then whiffs at the second level.  3
yd gain.
4th:  FG-WE WIN!


  1. Wow, you really put things into perspective.

    It's amazing how if Tress had simply called one play-action pass in that missed FG drive, a lot of the criticism would have been tempered.

    Also, Belichik doinking on the 4th and 2 and blowing the Colts game helped to put conservative coaching in a good light!

  2. Adam--Yeah-I think one first or second play-action pass on that missed FG drive could have blown that drive open...

    Haha, that is for sure!